Month: December 2007

December 31, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Going through my normal morning blog reading ritual, I came across a link to an article on the declining popularity of Kwanzaa.

The article begins:

When I first learned about Kwanzaa in the 1980s, I questioned the need to create an observance for African Americans. It felt too contrived: all those symbols and paraphernalia, all that ritual. Even the Swahili names for the seven days of the holiday rang false: Swahili is an East African language, and the majority of African Americans have origins in West Africa.

Still, the holiday caught on; Kwanzaa cards and wrapping paper lie on the shelves next to supplies for Hanukkah and Christmas. There is a Kwanzaa postage stamp, and each year, President Bush issues a Kwanzaa message. I’ve grown to appreciate Kwanzaa because I’ve seen how it unites disparate, even hostile, segments of the African American community.

These days, though, I fear for the future of Kwanzaa. The latest figures, from a 2004 study by the National Retail Foundation, say that just 13 percent of African Americans observe the holiday. When I go to Kwanzaa ceremonies, the audience is mostly folks in their 40s and older. I don’t see the younger people, the ones who need to embrace Kwanzaa and keep it vibrant.

When they look at Kwanzaa, do they see a relic from the ’60s?

Interesting question.

(For those of you not familiar with the specifics of Kwanzaa, please go and read the article. Before we continue, I need everyone to understand that Kwanzaa is NOT a substitute for Christmas.)

Kwanzaa is a strange holiday and it is still seen as not quite legitimate. After all, it is a cultural holiday in a season of religious based holidays. In some ways, Kwanzaa is kind of a relic from the 60s. That was back when African-Americans were struggling to form a national identity and show solidarity and that led to some of the pan-African celebrations and customs the community has embraced.

Now, many African-Americans are comfortable with their identity and have focused more on their individual lives. Kwanzaa is more of an after thought.

I was raised with Kwanzaa when I was younger. Every year, Mom broke out the kente cloth table mats, the ear of corn, the wooden chalice thing she bought from the black expo, our wooden carved kinara and the red, black, and green candles. We celebrated Kwanzaa every year for about five years.

As my sister and I entered adolescence our enthusiasm for the holiday waned. After a while, we stopped formally celebrating Kwanzaa.

(Though, I must mention that we were subject to random pop quizzes. “Spell kujichagulia and tell me what it stands for!”)

As an adult, I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa. (I also have yet to find enough Christmas spirit to decorate my studio.)

That will change in a few years though, when I have children.

Read the Post What Does Kwanzaa Mean To Us?

December 31, 2007 / / Uncategorized
December 28, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Note: All of these blogs and articles were found through the excellent organization Global Voices.


Little Black Sambo is still a hot topic for debate in Japan, with Japan Probe weighing in on the latest manifestation of the controversy:

Over at, there is a post today containing an e-mail from a foreigner in Japan who was shocked to find that a Rainforest Cafe in Chiba Prefecture was selling “Little Black Sambo” dolls. After explaining to the staff of the store that “sambo” was racial slur for black people and that the book “Little Black Sambo” was offensive, he succeeded in getting the dolls removed from the store’s shelves.

I found the fact that the store removed the dolls to be rather surprising, given the popularity of “Little Black Sambo” in Japan. I would guess that Sambo goods are being sold at hundreds of stores throughout Japan, and the children’s picture book is available at almost any bookstore of significant size.


If one were to tell the average Japanese person that “sambo” was a racial slur similar to “nigger” and that the book “Little Black Sambo” was an offensive book full of racially insensitive imagery, one would probably be met with a response of surprise or confusion. To many Sambo is just a cute little character in a cute children’s book, and it is hard to understand what could be so offensive about it.

The post finishes with a poll:

“Little Black Sambo” is:

An racially insensitive book that should not be popular 250 – 50% of all votes
A harmless little book about a cute dark-skinned boy 255 – 50% of all votes
Total Votes: 505

Started: December 4, 2007

Mutant Frog Travelouge writes on the gross mischaracterizations of Japanese culture by Americans, specifically in reference to the Washington Post article on blogging in Japan:

The overview is essentially a series of variations on the theme “Unlike Americans, who often times blog to stand out, the Japanese blog to fit in.”
I can appreciate that this “Tokyo Stories” feature is an attempt to provide easy-to-understand vignettes about Japanese culture for an American audience. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Japan, so for readers and visitors to the Washington Post to take an interest in what’s going on on the other side of the world is extremely important. Unfortunately, the blanket generalizations and shallow analysis in this piece undermine that mission.

Read the Post Global Link Round Up – Race Outside of the US

December 22, 2007 / / Uncategorized
December 21, 2007 / / Uncategorized
December 21, 2007 / / Uncategorized